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Analysts decry education budget

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Experts on education have warned that not much may be achieved in the education sector despite the government’s decision to give the largest allocation to the sector in this year’s national budget.

Educationist Steve Sharra and education rights campaigner Benedicto Kondowe were reacting to the latest allocation to the education sector.

During presentation of the budget statement on Friday, Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe said the government has given the sector a lion’s share as one way of improving education standards in the country.

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In the 2017/18 national budget, the sector was allocated K235 billion. The sector has, in the 2018/19 fiscal year, been allocated K166 billion, which is the biggest allocation.

Sharra said, out of the K235 billion in the 2017/18 budget, K38.7 billion was for development projects, notably the procurement of five million desks, construction of libraries and laboratories for community day secondary schools which have not materialised.

“As Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education examinations got underway this past week, photos shared on social media showed students sitting on the bare floor while others sat on used bricks as they sat for examinations.

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“The procurement of desks and construction of girls’ hostels has been mentioned again in the 2018/19 budget. As these were already budgeted for in last year’s budget, one hopes that the money allocated last year is still there and that new funds from the coming year will go to other equally deserving areas,” Sharra said.

Sharra argued that, though most of the projects promised through the 2017/18 budget have not been accomplished, there was no need to reduce the amount this fiscal year.

“For education, there are two important things that the country should start addressing, namely moving towards free secondary education, as stipulated in Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4), and changing primary school teacher qualifications from a certificate towards a university diploma.

“The Minister of Education told Parliament in February that the ministry was beginning to work on this idea. The budget statement presented in Parliament does not say anything about this, but we need to see the actual budget to know for sure,” he said.

On his part, Kondowe said it is surprising that teachers’ arrears remain outstanding despite the sector getting a lion’s share of resources.

“The issue of textbooks has not been resolved…there are a number of books which are not available in our schools despite changing the curriculum. So, I would say that the lion’s share did not help us much because we even struggled to procure textbooks under the new curriculum,” he said.

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